Patients who suffer from conditions that cause them to experience chronic pain are often treated with a form of electrical stimulation therapy; this type of therapy is delivered into your system using a TENS machine. TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) has been proven to be a very effective method of pain control and treatment.
The low frequency stimulation electric current that the TENS machine produces is delivered to the chronic pain patients via electrodes that are placed against the patient’s skin, i.e. transcutaneous.
Patients who learn that an electrical current is delivered via electrodes, in an effort to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other joint conditions, may be having visuals that are more related to a science fiction movie than a form of pain relief therapy. However, it is important to keep in mind that the electrical impulses delivered by the electrical nerve stimulation unit are a very low frequency; patients will feel little more than a tingling sensation where the electrodes are attached to their body.
Placement of the Electrodes
In order for your TENS unit to provide you with the highest levels of arthritis, nerve, and muscle pain relief, the device’s electrodes must be strategically placed on your body. It is very likely that your first pain treatment therapies may be delivered in your health professional’s office; a trained health professional will know which areas on your body the electrodes should be placed in order to target your unique bone and joint pains. If your therapy is going to be continued as part of a home self-treatment plan, your health professional will help to guide you into an understanding of the optimal placement of the electrodes.
In addition, your TENS machine will be accompanied by a user’s manual that will offer you detailed information related to the best areas to place the electrodes.
If you find that your nerve stimulator at-home treatment is less effective for relieving your pain than your in-office treatment sessions were, then you may need to adjust the electrode placement. You should either consult with your health professional, or simply do a little bit of at-home experimentation in order to find the positions that offer you the most effective relief of your pain.
Your health professional may provide you with a diagram sheet that details the best positions for electrode placement; if your hips are the area of your body causing you a significant amount of pain then you will need to place the electrodes in the areas that will provide you with the most effective pain therapy. If your neck is the area that you need the electrical current to be most effective, then the electrodes will be placed around your neck and shoulders in order to treat your neck pain. The same methods of placement will hold true if you experience spinal pain; remember to ask your medical professional for more information if you unsure as to the correct placement of the electrodes.
Remember that the most important part of your TENS treatment is to ensure that the electrical stimulation is allowed to pass into your body through the area that is causing you the pain or discomfort. By affecting these nerves, your body will be able to adjust the frequency of the message that is being sent to your brain: the frequency that is telling your brain that you are feeling pain. When this frequency is adjusted, your body will no longer recognize the pain – which will, in turn, reduce the intensity of the pain that you are feeling. In addition to an effective reduction in the pain that patients feel, the TENS machine will allow for the release of endorphins which work as natural painkillers. Pain relief without the need to take strong drugs that can interfere with a patient’s ability to function is a wonderful method of pain control.
Care of the Electrodes
In order to ensure that your reusable electrodes are kept in good usable condition, there are a few steps that you should take prior to a treatment session.
- The area of your body where the electrodes will be placed should be thoroughly cleaned; preferably with a medical alcohol wipe in order to sterilize your skin.
- Your skin should be allowed to air dry; if you are using an alcohol solution to clean your skin it will dry very rapidly.
- Coat the bottom part of the TENS machine’s electrodes with a thin layer of gel – the gel will be similar to the gel used by ultrasound technicians. It provides an effective medium for the electrical impulses to reach the affected nerves.
- Place the electrodes onto your skin, in the areas where the therapy will be most effective, and use medical tape to secure the electrode to your skin. If the areas that are to be treated are in hard to reach places, in the middle of your back for example, you should have a friend or family member assist you in the correct placement.
- Once you have finished your treatment session you should carefully remove the electrodes from your skin. If you have a repeat session within a few short hours then you should consider leaving the electrodes in place in order to save a bit of time.
- You should clean the electrodes to remove the gel from them; never use rubbing alcohol or alcohol wipes as the alcohol could damage the material that the electrodes are made out of.
If, over the course of several in-home treatment sessions, you discover that the electrodes are simply not staying in place or are otherwise proving to be ineffective, you should consider replacing them so that you can gain the most benefit from your therapy.
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